Professor Anne Grobler awarded for unique TB diagnostics research

Issued by North West University
North-West, Apr 9, 2019

It is no secret that the North-West University's (NWU's) Professor Anne Grobler is a researcher and academic who has made her mark in the international arena of health research.

The recent award she received from the National Intellectual Property Management Office (NIPMO), a government enterprise, yet again confirms her dedication to her research.

The Minister of Science and Technology, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, awarded Grobler a certificate of acknowledgement for her passion in ensuring that her research has a practical application and is to the benefit of the people of SA.

"We would like to congratulate you for being identified as the top intellectual property creator for your institution in terms of actionable disclosures on technology transfer made to your office," said Kubayi-Ngubane. "We therefore award the NWU a monetary contribution of R605 000 in order to assist you in driving your technologies from IP creation to innovation as a product, process or service with impact."

With regard to this particular award, Grobler's research deals with the development and commercialisation of various aspects of fast, affordable, accurate, mobile diagnostics of tuberculosis. Hanks TB Diagnostics is a spin-off company from the NWU that developed a consumable and disposable TB diagnostics kit that can be used at the point of care, while patients wait, and is offered at an affordable price.

"Our economy has been experiencing very low growth levels, and this has stifled the pace of poverty reduction, employment creation and the reduction of inequality," said the minister.

"Our economic performance should be fertile ground for innovation, yet it seems we suffer what World Bank economists have called 'the innovation paradox': Despite the vast potential returns on investment from innovation in developing countries, these countries pursue innovation far less than their advanced counterparts.

"For this reason, it is important for us to put in place mechanisms and platforms that will help us increase our capacity to innovate as a country. To this end, the South African government is taking steps to ensure that publicly funded research generates intellectual property that will help grow the South African economy and, more importantly, help us deal with the triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality," the minister said.

The establishment of the NIPMO was an attempt by the government to incentivise and promote innovation within publicly financed institutions. "The NIPMO incentives for intellectual property creators seek to promote the conversion of research and development (R&D) outputs into products, processes and services that are of benefit to society. Tonight's awards signal clearly that this investment is starting to bear fruit," the minister added.

"This award means that South African scientists are acknowledged for work done on local issues and not a US or Eurocentric aftermath. The money associated with it at this stage means so much; we need to get the World Health Organisation's pre-qualification for our system, which will allow the Department of Health to use this system for rural tuberculosis diagnosis and monitoring of treatment. The funds allocated will be used for this purpose," Grobler said.

The awards ceremony took place in Pretoria on 28 March 2019.